Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 11/19/14
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An untimely injury in the last game of 2011 put a sudden halt to Ryan Howard‘s run as a borderline elite fantasy first baseman, but there’s still a little gas left in the tank for this former 40-homer, 140-RBI threat. In just 71 games and 292 plate appearances last year, Howard clubbed 14 homers and 56 RBI. Double those numbers and you have the kind of production Howard would have put up in a full season — 28 HR and 112 RBI. But while the power was nice, the .219 batting average was an eyesore to say the least. For those who are ready to classify the strikeout prone Howard as Adam Dunn with less power, you may want to pause a moment. Yes, his strikeout rate will approach (any maybe even exceed) 30%, but last year he hit line drives over 25% of the time. Even with Howard’s extremely limited foot speed, that should result in a BABIP higher than .287. Seeing as Howard posted his best strikeout rate of 2012 in the season’s final month, perhaps it just took him a little time to work his way back. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. At a Glance Strengths: HR, RBI, SLG, OPS Neutral: R, OBP Weaknesses: BA Player Comparisons Best-case scenario: Mark Teixeira (NYY) Likely scenario: Ike Davis (NYM), Pedro Alvarez (PIT), Dayan Viciedo (CHW) Worst-case scenario: Carlos Pena (HOU) Ryan Howard 2013 Fantasy Projection Howard’s 2013 fantasy value comes down to two things: health and strikeouts. If he can stay on the field for 140+ games, he’ll be a borderline 30-homer producer who could challenge or exceed 100 RBI. If he can keep his strikeout rate under 30%, he should be able to get his batting average up to a less-lethal-for-your-team .250. Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro has said that Howard won’t be 100% at the start of the season thanks to his troublesome toe, so we’re not getting started on the right foot (pun totally intended) but that makes Howard and intriguing buy-low candidate this year. If you’re really set on drafting Howard this year but don’t want to reach, try sprinkling in some pre-season talk about how he might miss time April or how Darin Ruf was awesome last year and could steal playing time throughout the season. Hey, nothing wrong with playing a little dirty, right?
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